Bogus state inspector trying to extort nail salons
March 08, 2018 10:15 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The State Regulation and Licensing Department's cosmetology board is searching for a man claiming to be a state inspector and has been attempting to swindle small businesses.
RLD said the phony inspector has been targeting nail salons. The state believes he has called at least a dozen salons and demanded that they pay him anywhere from $500 to $1,200 or go to court in order to avoid closure.
Down to the last detail, Club and Spa Nail Salon owner Shaina Tran makes sure her customers feel flawless. It’s only natural that Tran notices when something is out of place. Tran was one of the fake inspector's targets. He called her claiming he was from the State Regulation and Licensing Department and demanded that Tran pay a fine in order to keep her salon license.
"He said that if you want to avoid court, you need to send us $500," she said.
He also called La Luxe Nail Salon owner Nini Nguyen.
"I was very scared,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said it seemed real at first. The man spoke Vietnamese. Though the caller never visited Nguyen’s salon in person, she said he knew the name of the last state inspector who paid her a visit.
"So when he called from the office, it was the state board office phone number," Nguyen said.
Even the paperwork inspector imposter had sent her had a New Mexico state seal. The paperwork appeared to be legitimate because there were signatures of state employees. What felt wrong to Nguyen was what the alleged inspector sent her over text message.
"He even texted me saying, 'How come you are ignoring my texts?'" Nguyen said.
Both Nguyen and Tran called the state board and quickly realized the so-called inspector was a phony.
"It [fines] never happened that way," Tran said. "That's how we found out that it should not be."
Regulation and Licensing Department official Robert Unthank said the state doesn't demand money over the phone.
"It's the most outrageous fraud," Unthank said. "This person is just intimidating our licensees."
The state isn’t even sure if the bogus inspector even lives in New Mexico.
"We understand the gentleman speaks fluent Vietnamese," Unthank said. "Currently he's been targeting Vietnamese shops."
4 Investigates followed a real state inspector to see how legitimate inspections are actually conducted. When state inspector Cres Archuleta first steps into a salon, he's looking for more than smudges and stains. He asks employees to see their licenses. Each license has an employee’s photo.
If there is a violation during the inspection, Archuleta schedules a re-inspection within 30 days. It gives the salon a chance to correct the violation before getting fined.
Tran and Nguyen never paid the phony inspector over the phone.
"It's a lot [of money]," Tran said. "We work really hard. We work 10 hours a day."
Unthank believes at least ten other salons were targeted.
"We have nail salons all over the State of New Mexico, so we want to make sure that no one has paid any extortion money but we don't know," Unthank said.
Here are some consumer tips:
- State inspectors check for sanitation, cleanliness and proper licensure in person.
- Salon customers wan look up a shop’s most recent inspection report online at rld.state.nm.us
- Salon inspection reports, as well as licenses with employee photos, must be posted in plain view
Updated: March 08, 2018 10:15 PM
Created: March 08, 2018 07:36 PM
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